Most of us are familiar with the use of props in our yoga classes. A bolster to sit on allows the spine to lengthen. A block to rest our hand on brings the floor up to us. In our yoga wall classes we use straps, slings, and bars to support the body, enhance the posture, and delve deeper into poses. One prop that is less commonly used but also allows for great exploration of postures is the chair. Chairs not only to allow the student to perform yoga postures while sitting, but also allow them to independently perform many postures that may be more challenging to perform while standing, seated on the floor, or inverted. The chair can help students find better alignment in various ways – by using the prop to alter the angle of the floor or to provide a bar to pull or push the body. Students also find they are able to stay in postures for a longer period of time when their bodies are supported as it can be less demanding on the body. They can then explore the pose with greater ease and may be able to regulate the breath better. The ability to spend a greater length of time in a pose offers up the opportunity to check in all around the body, to observe more in depth, and potentially relax deeper into the pose.
Props can often be critically viewed as a crutch – a support only needed by students who aren’t able to do a pose the “right” way or a device that holds someone back from getting deeper and farther into the pose. It is actually the opposite that is true. Props can and should be used by anyone to explore a pose from a different angle, so to speak, and poses with props are more enhanced versions of poses we are familiar with – shining a light on aspects of poses that are often overlooked.
Below are a few poses you can explore using a chair. It is best to use a metal folding chair. To be sure it will not slide on the floor when you put weight on it use a yoga mat or the wall to stabilize the chair.
- Invert your chair and place the top of the back rest against the wall.
- Step your left leg back with foot parallel to the back edge of the mat
- Place your right foot on the (bottom of the) seat of the chair.
- Exhale to glide forward into the pose and allow your right hand to find the top horizontal rung.
- Stand with your back against the wall
- Place the chair about 3 feet in front with the seat towards you
- Bend forward and bring palms or forearms onto the seat.
- Press the thighs back into the wall
- Sit on the floor with seat of chair facing you
- Place the middle of your calves on the edge of the seat
- Hold the seat and pull towards you to lift up your chest
- Play around with lifting your hands off the seat and maintaining this lift
- Place chair with side facing the wall about 2-2.5 feet from the wall
- Place a bolster over the seat
- Lie on the bolster with head toward the wall
- Keep knees bent and stretch arms overhead so they reach the wall
- Play around with extending legs out straight.
Reference: Shifroni, Eyal. A Chair for Yoga. Lexington, KY. 2013
– Alison Aiken PT, DPT, CYT